Patriots' Belichick takes different approach to Gronk's record

  • By Simon Samano
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If there's one thing we know about Patriots coach Bill Belichick, it's that he always puts the team before individuals.

So it was surprising Sunday that, with the Patriots leading the Bills 49-21 with 1:30 remaining and backup quarterback Brian Hoyer under center, Belichick defied his own beliefs and put Rob Gronkowski in the game -- all to ensure he held the NFL single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end.

Rather than kneel down to run out the clock, Hoyer connected with Gronkowski for 22 yards to push the tight end's season total to 1,327. Without that final reception, Gronkowski would have finished second to Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, who ended with 1,310 receiving yards after a win over the Panthers that concluded just moments earlier.

"That last play, I had (offensive coordinator) Billy (O'Brien) call that because I wasn't sure exactly where he was (in relation to Graham's numbers), and I thought he deserved a chance to go up and try to make another play," Belichick said, via "He's had a great year. He's worked hard. I thought he deserved that."

A very un-Belichick-like approach, right? And he might have got away with one. Imagine if Gronk blew out his knee and missed the playoffs -- just so he could set a record (keep in mind he already broke the tight end record for touchdowns earlier this season and added to his total Sunday).

But thanks, Coach. Gronk definitely was appreciative.

"It means a lot," he said. "It's unbelievable. It's surreal they even let me go out there. It's cool they let me do that. We could have kneeled there. Hoyer just came in the game. He made a great pass. That's why I love it here. It's such a great organization with great coaches and players. This would never have happened without (fellow tight end) Aaron (Hernandez), my coaches and the players."

Consider yourself special, Gronk. Belichick isn't nice like this to just anybody.